When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, ‘As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.’
The Temple in Jerusalem, Versailles, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Shard, St John’s Upper Norwood, are all buildings which speak of human progress and accomplishment, magnificent and worthy buildings to reflect our achievements.
We still talk of the seven wonders of the world. The Great Pyramid of Giza, being the only remaining wonder standing. But surely the greatest accomplishment is not what we build out of bricks and mortar as we are reminded of in our Gospel this morning, but our greatest achievement is that borne out of love, service, and the good which we build into our relationships in the world – which we remember today.
Of the great seven wonders – one remains – of the many wonders revealed of God’s love.. we remain. And so we have authority in our world and privilege that if we can authentically talk of the Love of God to influence our world for good, then let us not give up on the hope that we can bring the justice of God’s kingdom and the revelation of that divine love to be known the world over!
What of our human accomplishments will remain when all of this is torn down? How quickly we forget that the stones of the temple beautify and adorn our house of prayer, yet, the treasures of the Church are those successors to that band of the poor and afflicted that St. Lawrence gathered before a Roman magistrate centuries ago. The poor, as the privileged bearers of Christ’s presence in the world, are the greatest treasure of the church and those who still bring good to the world in acts of service and loving kindness.
Outside of the political and complex histories of the Great Wars, we remember that mostly the poor and good hearted and intentioned people of this nation and Commonwealth sought in our common life to affirm then and now that their and our wellbeing was less important than standing by and seeing a neighbour in need perish because of the unjust and aggressive power of this world.
The Treaty of Versailles, signed on 28 June 1919, took effect on 10 January 1920 and it was this Treaty which finally accomplished the longed for and short lived peace in WW1.
That Treaty was signed in the famous Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles. How wonderful that the powers and authorities of that day sat down – and did so with mirrors being held up to them.
As a Christian People, we acknowledge that the life of Jesus itself holds up a mirror to humanity. In his story it was he who spoke of love, and justice, who demanded the powers of this world become obedient to the goodness of God’s kingdom. It was Jesus who had thrown at him the disproportionate hatred and fury or a tyrannical rule. Religious and political hatred rained down upon the one who eventually reigns from the Cross.
He suffered, died was buried – and rose again: so that we might speak a truth into the power of this and every age. Good will triumph, however poor and marginalised we become as the people of God, evil intention and wickedness cannot and will not succeed in this version of God’s creation.
Speaking truth into world power, God knows is costly, and today we acknowledge the costliness still of freedom for the oppressed. Many of us will not be called as others have been and are to put their life where our peaceful ambition lay. Yet, as a Christian people, even from our armchairs, or pews, we cannot be oblivious, nor ignorant, neither disbelieving or uninvolved in knowing about and transforming for good the suffering of others.
We cannot become uncompassionate towards the long task of supporting the people of the Ukraine, but neither can we become hard-hearted towards those in dinghies crossing the channel. We do not know their lives so let us be compassionate until we know our need to be firm.
One life in one situation is as important as another life in another. Those who have gone before us, knew this and those who defend our freedoms in the world today know that a life, is a life and though I hope we will be found to be on the correct side of the moral argument for liberty and freedom… we are still called to be a people who hate the sin, and not the sinner.
For redemption must be possible for even the most vile offender. After all, are we not a people who see while looking in the mirror also our own complicatedness, before we destroy someone else for theirs.
One person out of many who we mourn and who despite great privilege knew her need of God and purpose in being a humble servant was our Late Sovereign Lady, the Christian, Queen Elizabeth II.
For a moment at her funeral procession – I wondered as to whether this Christian Monarch really wanted to be surrounded by such an incredible display of military power to accompany her final journey. Then it made sense. We are not a nation who go out looking to create conflict or to conquer: those ages have gone. They were her peacekeepers. Today we recall that in His Majesty’s name, people of this country and commonwealth – go and put their lives in harms way to seeking peace, to liberate those held captive, and to bring justice and stability to people’s and nations – because at the core of who we are as a people behind our King, we are working out what it is still to be a Christian people in the world who believe in justice, in Good, and that Good must triumph.
Of course, there are complex political ambitions behind every act. But at our heart, at the core of who we are, and who we have been for many generations in this nation, we are a people who are prepared to sit in the Hall of Mirrors and have that mirror held up to us, so that we might explain who we are. Nationally that is good. Locally that is important, but privately – it is essential that we remember that we reflect the image of God, to those who we look upon in our world – who also bear the image of the God who suffered but who conquered suffering to live. It will never be easy, there will always be suffering, and we will often need to put ourselves in harms way to change the world – but in the power of being Christs witness to the world – we will prevail if good is our true nature and intention.
In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen